Al-Sweady inquiry: 'signs of torture' found on Iraqi bodies handed to families by British troops

Year-long hearings begin into contested allegations that injured insurgents were taken back to army camp after brutal battle and tortured or killed

Bodies of Iraqis handed back to their families by British troops showed signs of torture and apparent mutilation as well as multiple bullet wounds, according to local doctors.

The revelation came at the start of the long-awaited Al-Sweady inquiry into allegations that injured insurgents were taken back to an army camp after a brutal battle and tortured or killed – claims that have been vigorously contested by the military.

Graphic photographs of 20 dead Iraqis, the youngest just 14, were shown as Jonathan Acton Davis QC, counsel to the inquiry, opened what is expected to a year-long hearing. The disturbing images showed the blood-soaked and contorted bodies of young men, many with severe facial injuries. Some appeared to be clad in uniforms while others were wearing civilian clothing.

Relatives told the inquiry team that a number of the corpses showed signs of fresh blood when they were returned the day after the battle while some were missing eyes or had injured or severed genitals.

After three years of investigations costing £15 million, the inquiry opened yesterday just weeks before the tenth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.

Ordered in 2009 after then defence secretary Bob Ainsworth conceded the need for a fresh investigation, it will examine allegations soldiers killed detainees after a fire fight with Shia insurgents, which became known as the battle of Danny Boy, near Majar al-Kabir in May 2004. It will also look into claims five detainees were ill treated both at Camp Abu Naji and later at a detention facility at Shaibah Logistics Base over a period of four months.

“The claim relates to events which began on May 14 2004, when Iraqi insurgents ambushed vehicles belonging to the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders near to a permanent vehicle checkpoint known as Danny Boy which was some 5km north-east of Majar al-Kabir on route six in Iraq,” Mr Acton Davis said.

“A fierce battle ensued which involved not only the Argylls but also soldiers from The Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment. It resulted in many Iraqis being killed and in two British soldiers being wounded.”

But, he explained, their remained a “stark dispute” as to what happened in the following 24 hours.

“It is the claimants' case that not all of the 20 died on the battlefield, and that at least one of them was murdered by a British soldier after he had been returned alive to Camp Abu Naji,” the barrister said.

The military, however, insists the 20 were already dead but brought into the camp – alongside nine detainees - as it was believed that one of them had been among those responsible for the death of six Royal Military Police soldiers killed by a mob in the notoriously lawless town in Maysan north of Basra eleven months earlier.

“In the ordinary course of events the enemy dead would have been left on the battle field but an order was given to identify the dead to see if there was amongst them an individual who may have been involved in the murder of six British soldiers in 2003,” the QC said.

Mr Acton Davis explained how the inquiry team had tracked down millions of documents to identify thousands that were relevant to their inquiry as well as identify 60 Iraqi witnesses and almost 200 military personnel who will give evidence before chairman Sir Thayne Forbes.

Among those documents, he revealed were a raft of Iraqi death certificates which listed a catalogue of injuries including multiple bullet wounds and missing body parts.

The Iraqi doctors assessed that three of the dead – including 19-year-old Hamid Al Sweady after whom the inquiry is named – showed signs of torture.

Footage of the bodies after they were handed over by the British to be taken by ambulance to Al Sadr Hospital, broadcast to the inquiry, showed distraught relatives opening body bags to try and identify men.

Doctors and family members claimed that, while some of the corpses were rigid, many showed signs of fresh wounds and blood. Among the injuries they noted were eyes that were missing, genitals that were damaged or completely severed, throats that had been cut, marks around the neck and wounds that appeared to have been left by plastic handcuffs or boot prints.

Full post mortems, however, were never carried out as a gun fight broke out outside the hospital in which the Chief of Police of Majar al-Kabir was killed and the bodies were immediately returned to the town.

Mr Acton Davis is expected to continue with his opening statement for the rest of the week when lawyers for the Iraqi survivors or relatives, the Ministry of Defence and soldiers will give brief statements.

The inquiry, which is expected to last until February, is due to hear from 15 Iraqi witnesses in person as well as a further 45 via video link from Beirut as well as up to 200 military personnel.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Savvy Media Ltd: Media Sales executive - Crawley

£25k + commission + benefits: Savvy Media Ltd: Find a job you love and never h...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Solicitor NQ+ Oxford

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CORPORATE - Corporate Solicitor NQ+ An excelle...

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible